There was once a country with promise. It was a young country, as countries go, only a couple of centuries, and there were some growing pains. It went steady with slavery for a while, but there was a bad breakup. It fought with other countries, but it helped others because its heart was in the right place. It tried to be a good country, and a good neighbor.
But then it got proud. It started thinking that its way was the only way, that it was exceptional, that it was always right. It started throwing its weight around and bullying its neighbors. It decided that instead of being for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all its people, it would bow at the altar of "free-market capitalism" and that money would determine who was worthy of being heard.
The country that started with such promise lost its way. It allowed wealthy people to hijack its purpose, and allowed poor people to die for lack of health care. It let some people decided that other people were unworthy of consideration or care. The love of money was everything.
But, because the country's heart really is in the right place, it can find its way again. It can once again be a leader not because it's a bully, but because it is following the right path. There is hope.
The above thoughts have been rattling around my head for a long time. When GW Bush told us that instead of planting gardens and conserving gas, we should go shopping (shopping?!?!), it was more clear than ever that we are no longer looked as citizens, but just as consumers. What defines us is not our status as American citizens, but how much we can buy, consume, and waste.
This is because we (the collective "we") worship at the altar of free-market capitalism, not at the altar of democracy. It's all the government you can buy, all the time. And if you can't afford to buy your very own government? Sucks to be you.
We must - MUST - be vigilant against the efforts of our corporate overlords to distract us with the shiny. The Internet and television can be great sources of distraction - oh look, another episode of LOLCats and American Idol! - but also vehicle of ideas and community. Look at the success of Facebook. Started out as a way to connect students in a college.... it's now a worldwide phenomenon that links people and communities in ways never dreamed of by Benjamin Franklin. And Twitter! It has facilitated democratic revolutions and reminded dictators that the world is watching.
We must have hope. We must believe that we have intrinsic worth as people. We have worth separate from the balance in our bank accounts. We must remember that..... and we must remind our corporate overlords. Loudly. Often. Continuously. We must not stop.